Early voting starts for US president

New York, Sep 23 (INDITOP) Early voting has started for electing the 44th president of the US, and more than half of the voters in some states will cast their votes before Nov 4, the election day.

In some counties of Kentucky and Virginia states, a few hundred people used their franchise last week, and early voting begins in another 11 states and the district of Columbia this week, according to the Pew Centre on the states’ electionline.org, which tracks ballot issues.

Early voting probably doesn’t benefit one candidate or the other because early voters tend to be those who are most loyal to their party or candidate, and least likely to be swayed by developments in the campaign, American Enterprise Institute scholar John Fortier was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal in a report Tuesday.

Voters casting ballots even before the debates between the two candidates begin this Friday will certainly affect the way campaigns typically proceed. It curtails some of the candidates’ ability to unveil major initiatives late in the campaign, when voters are generally more attentive.

Early voting also complicates the candidates’ voter-mobilisation efforts, which must be spread over many weeks of a campaign instead of the last few days, the Journal said.

Early voting, will, however, relieve pressure on polling places that are expecting a record voter turnout this time. Many election offices are sending absentee-ballot applications to registered voters hoping that a good percentage of them will vote early and prevent the long queues seen at some places in 2004.

According to Fortier, only about 5 percent of voters cast absentee ballots in 1980, when many jurisdictions required a voter to have a notarized excuse to get one.

Now, trying to make voting easier and increase voter turnout, about half the states offer the ‘no-excuse absentee voting’, and 23 offer in-person early voting in elections offices and, in some cases, in grocery stores and Wal-Mart stores.

In 2004, about a third of voters in a dozen states cast ballots before election day, and in five of those states, at least half the voters cast early ballots. Oregon has voted completely by mail-in ballot since 1998, the Journal said.